August 30, 2011; Source: Memorial Examiner | A fellows program at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University matches MBA students with local nonprofits, not as interns exactly but as nonvoting board members. The Memorial Examiner, a neighborhood news outlet in Houston, reports that students are appointed to terms of 12 to 18 months on the boards of local community organizations. They attend all board and relevant committee meetings and operate under the mentorship of another board member. This allows the students to observe and participate in leadership-level conversations and to think about how what they are learning in the classroom may or may not apply to real business issues in these organizations. They also get to consider business issues over longer time frames than they might elsewhere in the organization and, of course, to network as peers with leaders in the Houston community.

The organizations that commented for the article seem to enjoy the fruits of the relationships as well. One of the CEOs who has worked with student board members is Carol Shattuck, who herself graduated from the Jones School with a Master’s in Public Management. She told the Examiner:

Our organization works very hard to raise the resources needed to support the programs that we provide, many of which are offered free of charge or at low fees. Our board was interested in doing an assessment of the programs we offered for a fee to determine if we were covering costs. One of our fellows led this analysis, which provided our board with valuable information for planning our future strategies.

Part of what seems to make this program work is a careful screening and matching process between students and nonprofits. This program looks like an impressive approach to leadership development.—Ruth McCambridge